Seventy-two hours after the news shook the very foundations of British Horse Racing, the trials and tribulations of the Mahmood Al Zarooni case have ended with the disqualification of the Godolphin trainer for a period of eight years for doping offences.
Photo: Emma-Louise Kerwin (Goodtosoft.co.uk)
A ban which will send shockwaves across all forms of horse racing across the globe, it is one which the British Horse Racing Authority had to impose, in their belief, to retain the integrity of British horse racing.
At 14:30 (GMT), Mahmood Al Zarooni and Godolphin's Racing Manager, Simon Crisford, entered the Brisith Horse Racing headquarters to hear the fate of both the trainer and the horses whom were entwined within this unprecedented scandal. At 18:50 (GMT), the British Horse Racing Authority announced that the three-member panel had come to their verdict, coming to a decision to disqualify Mahmood Al Zarooni from training for a period of eight years.
For the horses, a ban of six months has been imposed on all eleven horses that have tested positive for the banned anabolic steroid substances, a ban which also includes four further horses - Comitas, Sashiko, Vacationer and Tearless - which Mr Al Zarooni confirmed he had also administered substances to.
A filly that had the world at her feet, the unbeaten Certify becomes the most high profile horse affected by this suspension, a suspension which will now ensure she misses her entire Classic-season campaign. A filly by Elusive Quality whom had reportedly wintered well, hopes were high for Certify to claim further Classic glory for Godolphin at Newmarket in the English 1,000 Guineas. Instead, in ten days time Certify will be denied her chance to propel to the top of the Classic crop - denied not out of choice, but by the actions of others.
"The length of suspension reflects the period beyond which the BHA is confident that the horses in question can have derived no performance related benefit" said the BHA's director of raceday regulations, Jamie Stier.
"The first and immediate priority was to establish the facts as to how the prohibited substances came to be present in the horses' samples." said Paul Bittar - Chief Executive of the BHA, "Secondly, in view of the potential repercussions for the sport and the profile of the races for which some of the horses held entries, it was in the public's interest, as well as that of the BHA and Godolphin, to progress the disciplinary procedures as quickly as possible."
"The BHA's investigation has established that the substances in question were administered on instruction of Mahmood Al Zarooni. The full details of this will be formally addressed in the Disciplinary Panel's findings. We believe that the eight year disqualification issued to Mahmood Al Zarooni, together with the six month racing restriction placed on the horses in question, will serve to reassure the public that use of performance-enhancing substances in British Racing will not be tolerated and that the sport has in place a robust and effective anti-doping programme."
As the news broke towards the beginning part of the week, Sheikh Mohammed has taken the decision to lockdown the stable of Mahmood Al Zarooni with immediate effect, enforcing that no horse would run from that yard until they had all been routine dope tested and until he was satisfied that the entire yard was completley clean. An announcement on the future of the Moulton Paddock Stables is expected in due course.
"This is an awful situation that Godolphin has found themselves in. Mr Al Zarooni acted with awful recklessness and caused tremendous damage, not only to Godolphin and British racing." Said Godolphin's Racing Manager, Simon Crisford, "I think it will take a very long time for Godolphin to regain the trust of the British public. We're shocked and completley outraged by the actions taken."
An investigation which resulted in Mahmood Al Zarooni naming three further individuals who are alleged to have been involved in the administering of prohibited substances, two employees of his stable along with one veterinary assistant, Crisford was clear in the post-hearing press conference that the veterinary asisstant has not broken any rules because he was 'unaware what substance he was administering.'